Monday, January 12, 2015

This Week in Television History: January 2015 PART III

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

January 12, 1955
Rod Serling’s career began with the TV production of Patterns
Patterns was the first major breakthrough of Rod Serling when the live television drama received critical acclaim as the January 12, 1955 installment of the anthology series Kraft Television Theatre.
Directed by Fielder Cook, the intense big-business drama starred Richard Kiley as up-and-coming vice-president Fred Staples. Ruthless corporate boss Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane) attempts to edge out aging employee Andy Sloane (Ed Begley) to make room for newcomer Staples. Ramsey uses every opportunity to humiliate the fragile Sloane, while Staples sees Sloane as a professional who makes valuable contributions to the firm.[1]
Serling's celebrated script tore apart the dynamics of the business world and earned Serling his first of his six Emmys for dramatic writing. There was a rave review from Jack Gould of The New York Times who suggested it be repeated:
Nothing in months has excited the television industry as much as the Kraft Television Theatre's production of Patterns, an original play by Rod Serling. The enthusiasm is justified. In writing, acting and direction, Patterns will stand as one of the high points in the TV medium's evolution.Patterns is a play with one point of view toward the fiercely competitive world of big business and is bound to be compared with the current motion picture Executive Suite. By comparison, Executive Suite might be Babes in Toyland without a score. For sheer power of narrative, forcefulness of characterization and brilliant climax, Mr. Serling's work is a creative triumph that can stand on its own. In one of those inspired moments that make the theater the wonder that it is, Patterns was an evening that belonged to the many, not only to Mr. Serling. The performances of Everett Sloane, Ed Begley and Richard Kiley were truly superb. The production and direction of Fielder Cook constituted a fluid use of video's artistic tools that underscore how little the TV artistic horizons really have been explored. Patterns was seen from 9 to 10pm Wednesday over the National Broadcasting Company's network; a repeat performance at an early date should be mandatory.
Gould's request for a repeat was an unusual suggestion, since in that pre-videotape era, live shows were not repeated. Surprisingly, NBC took Gould's suggestion seriously and made plans for another production.

January 12, 1965
The dance show "Hullabaloo" premiered on NBC TV. 
Directed by Steve Binder, who went on to direct Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback SpecialHullabaloo served as a big-budget, quality showcase for the leading pop acts of the day, and was also competition for another like-minded television showcase, ABC's Shindig!. A different host presided each week[1]—among these were Sammy Davis, Jr.Petula ClarkPaul AnkaLiza MinnelliJack Jones, and Frankie Avalon—singing a couple of his or her own hits and introducing the different acts. Chart-topping acts who performed on the show included Dionne WarwickThe Lovin' SpoonfulThe Rolling StonesThe YardbirdsSonny & Cherthe SupremesHerman's HermitsThe AnimalsRoy Orbison and Marianne Faithfull. Many early episodes included black and white segments taped in the UK and hosted by Brian Epstein. Sid Bernstein was the booking agent for Hullabaloo.Peter Matz, formerly of The Carol Burnett Show, was the orchestra leader.[2] Peppiatt and Aylesworth were the writers.
Some of the programs in the series were videotaped at NBC Studios in Burbank, California. Most were taped inNew York City either at NBC's Studio 8H (built for Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra and which would later house Saturday Night Live), or in NBC's color studio in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Much of the series' color videotaped footage was later transferred over to kinescope on film - as such copied in black and white. Only three half-hour episodes are known to exist in their original color videotaped form.

January 14, 1990
The Simpsons began airing regularly.
The Simpsons is an American adult animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company.[1][2][3] The series is a satirical depiction of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of HomerMargeBartLisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culturesociety, television, and many aspects of the human condition.
The family was conceived by Groening shortly before a solicitation for a series of animated shorts with the producer James L. Brooks. Groening created a dysfunctional family and named the characters after members of his own family, substituting Bart for his own name. The shorts became a part of The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. After a three-season run, the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime time show and was an early hit for Fox, becoming the network's first series to land in the Top 30 ratings in a season (1989–1990).
Since its debut on December 17, 1989, the show has broadcast 561 episodes, and the 26th season began on September 28, 2014. The Simpsons is thelongest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and in 2009 it surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running American scripted primetime television series. The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film, was released in theaters worldwide on July 26 and 27, 2007, and grossed over $527 million. On October 28, 2014, executive producer Al Jean announced that Season 27 had started production, renewing the series through the 2015–16 season.
Time magazine's December 31, 1999, issue named it the 20th century's best television series, and on January 14, 2000, the Simpson family was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 31 Primetime Emmy Awards, 30 Annie Awards, and a Peabody Award. Homer's exclamatory catchphrase "D'oh!" has been adopted into the English language, while The Simpsons has influenced many adult-oriented animated sitcoms.

January 15, 1995
The first episode of Star Trek: Voyager aired.
Star Trek: Voyager is a science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe.
The show takes place during the 2370s, and begins on the far side of the Milky Way galaxy, 75,000 light-years from Earth. It follows the adventures of theStarfleet vessel USS Voyager, which became stranded in the Delta Quadrant while pursuing a renegade Maquis ship.  The two ships' crews merge aboardVoyager to make the estimated 75-year journey home.
The show was created by Rick BermanMichael Piller and Jeri Taylor, and is the fifth incarnation of Star Trek, which began with the 1960s series Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. It was produced for seven seasons, from 1995 to 2001, and is the only Star Trek TV series with a female captain, Kathryn Janeway, as a main character.
Star Trek: Voyager aired on UPN and was the network's second longest running series, as well as the final show from its debut lineup to end.

January 17, 1975
The television show Baretta debuted on ABC.
Baretta is an American detective television series which ran on ABC from 1975 to 1978. The show was a milder version of a successful 1973–74 ABC series, Toma, starring Tony Musante as chameleon-like, real-life New Jersey police officer David Toma. While popular, Toma received intense criticism at the time for its realistic and frequent depiction of police and criminal violence. When Musante left the series after a single season, the concept was retooled asBaretta, with Robert Blake in the title role.
Detective Anthony Vincenzo "Tony" Baretta is an unorthodox plainclothes cop (badge #609) with the 53rd precinct, who lives with Fred, his Triton sulphur-crested cockatoo, in apartment 2C at the run-down King Edward Hotel in an unnamed Eastern city (presumably Newark, New Jersey). Like his model David Toma, Tony Baretta wore many disguises on the job. When not in disguise, Baretta usually wore a short-sleeve sweatshirt, casual slacks, a brown suede jacket and a newsboy cap. He often carried an unlit cigarette in his lips or behind his ear. His catchphrases included "You can take dat to da bank" and "And dat‘s the name of dat tune." When exasperated he would occasionally speak in asides to his late father, Louie Baretta.
Baretta drove a rusted-out Mist Blue 1966 Chevy Impala four-door sport sedan nicknamed "The Blue Ghost" (license plate 532 BEN). In the series Baretta hung out at Ross’s Billiard Academy and referred to his numerous girlfriends as his "cousins".
Supporting characters include:
  • Billy Truman (Tom Ewell), the elderly hotel manager/house detective, who used to work with Tony’s father Louie at the 53rd Precinct.
  • Rooster (Michael D. Roberts), a streetwise pimp and Tony's favorite informant.
  • Tony's supervisors Inspector Shiller (Dana Elcar) and Lieutenant Hal Brubaker (Edward Grover).
  • Detective Foley (John Ward), an irritating stick-in-the-mud.
  • "Fats" (Chino 'Fats' Williams), a gravelly-voiced black detective who goes on stakeouts with Tony.
  • Detective Nopke (Ron Thompson), a rookie who admires Baretta‘s street smarts.
  • Little Moe (Angelo Rossitto), a shoeshine man and informant.
  • Mr. Nicholas (Titos Vandis), a mob boss.
  • Mr. Muncie (Paul Lichtman), the owner of a liquor store at 52nd and Main.
January 18, 1975
 The Jeffersons began its ten-year run on CBS. 

A spin-off, the series had its "pilot" episode air on All in the Family (on Jan. 11). The Jeffersons began in a period in TV history when African-American characters were becoming the leads of their own shows. Isabel Sanford, in fact, was the first African-American Emmy winner as Best Actress in a Comedy Series (in 1981). The series broke ground in its inclusion of an interracial marriage (in Tom and Helen Willis) and explored the same types of topical issues as All in the Family. Although, as the Museum of Broadcast Communications' Encyclopedia of Television notes, "America's black community remained divided in its assessment of the program," the show was unique in the television landscape for its portrayal of an affluent African-American family.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".


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Tony Figueroa
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